With the Euro finally starting to come down and summer in Europe being what it is, there will be many tourists heading to various countries throughout Europe soon! Many of those tourists will be renting cars to set their own pace and direction. If that is you, there are 3 tips for renting a car in Europe to make sure you get the best deal – not necessarily the cheapest price.
3 Tips for Renting a Car in Europe
Tip 1 – Watch Out for Fuel Policy
When you use a car rental website that searches multiple agencies, make sure you check what the fuel policy is! The best policies are those that are full/full – that means you rent the car with a full tank and return it with a fuel tank. This is what most Americans are familiar with.
But, you may find a cheaper rental car and notice it says something different, Pre-Purchase (partial refund). Anything with this kind of fuel policy will likely come with a rental rate that is much cheaper than other cars. Here is what that means:
It is mostly some lower cost car rental companies in Europe that operate this way. If you ask for specifics at the counter, be aware that the agent may not understand you or may give you incorrect information. Such was a situation with me and Record Go in Mallorca a couple of years ago.
Tip 2 – Go With Larger Companies
This one will likely cost you a bit more but it could really save you a lot in the end. While some local companies may be decent, my experience with car rental companies in Europe is that I am always better off going with the larger agencies like Avis, Sixt, Hertz, etc. Not only do many of those recognize your elite status within their company (which can mean larger cars, better service, etc) but they are far less likely to pull any moves that could cost you money.
Many low cost car rental companies do hard sells on insurance (in the US like the pretty bad Payless) so it should not come as a surprise to you in Europe. However, remember that you credit card rental policy may require a police report that is not always easy to come by in some countries!
Some of these companies take advantage of that difficulty in obtaining reports by charging exorbitant rates for insurance. It can make a car that costs just $5 per day cost $40 per day! I have seen some very shady tactics at some of these companies so I try to avoid them and stick with the larger, more well-known companies – even if it costs more. Sometimes, it is very much a pay-now-or-pay-later scenario.
Condition of Vehicle
Another reason to go with larger companies is with the condition of vehicles. Some of the cheaper rental companies do not do maintenance very well on the vehicles or they are much older than regular rental vehicles.
I rented a vehicle in Jordan one time that was old, rickety, and burned oil like crazy. I would have been better off renting something for an extra $50 – 80 that would have been more reliable!
Tip 3 – Look Away From Airports
This tip works in the US as well but this could be a huge cost saver in Europe! There are some very high airport fees for rental car companies in larger cities. Not only that, but the companies may charge quite a bit more since they know it is more convenient for customers.
The best thing would be to use Uber or public transportation to get to the city and then use a city location for a rental car. I have found some prices in various cities to be much less than airport locations. Not only that, you could also avoid tolls on roads that go to/from airports in some cities.
Select Days Needed
If you are visiting a city for a few days, you may be fine on foot or with public transportation for a couple of days. By choosing to rent a vehicle away from the airport, you can avoid the parking fees (which can be VERY high!) for the days you are in the city. Then, grab a vehicle for the days you want to get out and explore.
Of course, there are other tips as well that we are all familiar with – like using a credit card that gives you primary rental insurance (but make sure that country is covered) and making sure you get your International Driver’s Permit before heading overseas but I decided to highlight the above 3 tips for rental cars in Europe to help you on your European vacation this summer.